Ryan Ranch, Joshua Tree National Park

Ryan Ranch (Joshua Tree National Park)

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Ryan Ranch  (Joshua Tree National Park)

  • Location: Joshua Tree National Park. From Highway 62, about six miles past the junction with Highway 247 and 26 miles northeast of I-10, take Park Boulevard (signed for the park) south (turn right if you’re coming from the west, left if from the east). Follow the road for a total of 16.2 miles to the signed Ryan Ranch Trail Head on the right side of the road, shortly past the junction with Keys View Road and almost immediately past the turnoff for the Ryan Campground. Admission is $20 per vehicle for a week. The inter-agency America the Beautiful pass ($80 per year) is also accepted here.
  • Agency: Joshua Tree National Park
  • Distance: 1 mile
  • Elevation gain: 100 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 30 minutes
  • Best season:  October – May
  • Dogs: Not allowed
  • Cell phone reception: None
  • Water: None
  • Restrooms: Vault restrooms at trail head
  • Camping: The trail head is adjacent to the Ryan Campground and also located near the Sheep Pass, Jumbo Rocks and Hidden Valley campgrounds. Joshua Tree National Park campgrounds tend to fill up well in advance, especially on weekends during the cooler months, so plan accordingly.
  • More information: Trip descriptions here, here and here

This short, family-friendly hike offers a glimpse at Joshua Tree National Park history while also providing some up-close views of some interesting geology and wide-ranging vistas. If you are on your way to Ryan Mountain, Skull Rock or Desert Queen Mine, allow a little extra time to stretch your legs and enjoy this excursion.

Ryan Ranch is the former homestead of the Ryan family, who worked the mines and raised cattle here in the early 20th century. The adobe structure has long been abandoned and reclaimed by nature and its ruins in the middle of the vast desert make for a striking sight. Depending on the angles, photos taken here can have a surreal, almost Salvador Dali-esque quality.

Follow the dirt road south from Park Blvd. with the large shape of Ryan Mountain looming to the left. You pass by large, towering clusters of boulders on both sides, popular with climbers and the homestead site soon comes into view. The trail becomes ambiguous about half a mile from the beginning, but it’s easy to find and reach the ruins of a smaller structure and then the main house. Sadly, like some of Joshua Tree’s more accessible sites, the Ryan Ranch buildings have been defaced. Thankfully, awareness of vandalism in the park is increasing and with the recent arrest of taggers who hit Barker Dam, word will continue to spread.

Photo gallery (click thumbnails to see full sized versions)

Ryan Ranch trail, Joshua Tree National Park
Interpretive sign at the trail head
Ryan Ranch hike, Joshua Tree National Park
Geology en route to Ryan Ranch
Ryan Ranch, Joshua Tree National Park
Among the ruins of Ryan Ranch
Ryan Ranch, Joshua Tree National Park
Ruins and mountains, Ryan Ranch






Text and photography copyright 2016 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

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